Liaoning itself is classed as a training and testing ship. The second carrier is likely to have a more active, operational, function.
China's involvement in the carrier arms race is more immediately to equal or match carrier forces of regional powers. These powers include:
- India with two carriers (INS Vikramaditya and under construction the first of the new Vikrant class)
- Japan, which has 2 carrier like Izumo class helicopter -"destroyers". With ski-jump modifications the Izumos or a future class may be able to accommodate short takeoff and vertical landing F-35Bs.
- Australia - significantly its 2 Canberra class landing helicopter docks have ski-jump bows that may facilitate F-35B operations. Clearly the ski-jumps were incorporated into the Canberra designs to give the option (with modifications) to handle any future Australian F-35B's or US F-35Bs or AV-8B Harriers.
FURTHER COMMENT FROM PETE
35m and 270m coincides closely with China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning's beam and length at the waterline (w/l). This suggest the second carrier may be the same class as Liaoning. Under the Rule of Thirds (third of the carrier force ready for operations) a third Chinese ski-jump carrier may be constructed, perhaps around 2020.
It seems that Chinese Government could not or chose not to hide the second carrier under construction. Likewise China cannot hide construction of the 3 stationary island "aircraft carriers" in the South China Sea. This overt show of growing military capability might be seen as a Chinese challenge to the US dominated alliance system (of US alliances with Southeast Asian nations, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and South Korea). China may be right in calculating that the US alliance can effectively do little about China's rising strength.
It may be that the recent downturn in Chinese economic growth may adversely effect China's naval (including carrier) building program. But China's economic growth and national military objectives are hard to predict.